One category that I’ve included on my blog is: Haven’t Been There/Haven’t Done That. The posts that fit one or the other OR both will be tagged there. I think that at this stage of my life I need to push myself to experience new people, places, and things. The more I settle into my comfort zone this may be challenging. Remember that one person’s place of safety is an adventure for someone else. It may seem that I place my thrill bar a bit low, but hey – who’s judging?
This year, my family spent Thanksgiving in Austin, Texas. While a few members (I think all of them) had been there before – for me this was some place new. I’ve learned from past experiences not to anticipate nor have preconceived notions of what to expect about…..well, anything. Usually it’s a sure-fire set up for disappointment. I’m not being a pessimist, quite the opposite – I always think everything is going to be stupendous and therein lies the rub. That is not to say that I don’t make up my mind ahead that I will have a good time no matter what….that’s just how I roll.
My immediate family decided to crash my youngest daughter, Anya’s, new Brazilian family’s first Thanksgiving. I’m being totally serious. She and her husband were invited to join his older brother and family in Austin, Tx for Thanksgiving since they were recently transferred there for his work. I think they mistakenly thought that my daughter’s previous experience in preparing a turkey would come in handy – ha! The minute I learned that her in-laws were also arriving from their home in Porto Alegre, Brazil I was ready to pack. We’d all first met at their son’s and my daughter’s wedding nearly a year ago. I adore them and couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them again. “Tell them we are coming too and be sure to call your sister – they might want to come as well!” (another chance to see my only grandchild) Poor Brazilians didn’t stand a chance.
Fortunately they are gracious people – what else could they do? Actually they were pretty excited about all of us coming and we began to plot and plan on group “WhatsApp” messages flying back and forth. Thanksgiving 2015 was in the works and everyone was onboard! It’s not easy to organize these things -any of you who have planned trips involving several different groups can empathize. We had not only travel arrangements and accommodations to make, but also the planning and execution of an international Thanksgiving meal. We were all arriving the day before which put a little pressure on shopping. The host family was providing the turkey, but little did they know that their newest family member was biting her nails over her responsibility of cooking that illustrious bird. “Mom, you gotta help me!”
The texts span from September 22nd (I know, not a lot of notice) until today when I sent off a video and another huge “Thank You!” They entailed flight plans, itineraries, menu suggestions, actual seating arrangements, and reassurances that “we are very independent and will be no trouble.” A frequent phrase used over the couple of months was “we’ll make it work” – how’s that for positive thinking?
Most of us had never met the brother and his family (wife and two adorable girls), four members of our new family speak little or no english and the amount of portuguese our group could muster amounted to “obrigado” (thank you) and a few swear words that I was panicked would slip out in front of the children. Being an international family – that didn’t deter us in the least. My husband defected from the former Czechoslovakia and I’ve spent years around family and friends with frequent helpings of english stew -usually with very little notion of what was being said. I could manage “dėkuji” (thank you) and a lot more swear words, but that never stopped me….I just kept talking. Also, my daughter-in-law is from Romania – need I tell you what I know in her language – shameful, I know, but what can I say – it’s an American curse.
Amongst all my retirement preparations (last days of work, financial and insurance arrangements etc.) I prepared to take off for five days which included making arrangements for my buddy Scout, my faithful parrot, Baby, and cleaning my home like I’m expecting company myself. I know – makes no sense, but there it is. My biggest pride was finding a bargain on Groupon for parking my car in a MasterPark lot for five days. My son, Andre, just rolls his eyeballs, but for me….well that is a big accomplishment involving multiple levels of technology, not to mention using my phone as my boarding pass. Seriously, my nightmare is that my phone will die at the security desk. FINALLY we were OFF!
I only packed a carry-on but truth be known I could have lived out of my 2nd piece – my backpack. Everything fit, including all my grand daughter’s gifts (one for each day, of course) and the bribes for the new kids…oh yeah, the smoked salmon for the Brazilians – can’t forget the Seattle chocolates….lets see, what else? We all arrived within a couple of hours of each other and once settled met up at the first Whole Foods store in the entire country. I’m not saying I was disappointed, but I mean…it was just another grocery store. It’s probably the way most people feel when they come to our Pike Street Market to see the first Starbucks! We finished up our shopping in record time, grabbed a quick bite, shared last-minute turkey instructions, and headed to our individual abodes to tuck in for the night. The air felt oddly balmy.
My oldest daughter, Bianca, has a real talent for finding unique travel experiences and accommodations. honestly, she could do it for a living – you know, if she ever gave up her day job. While Anya was ensconced with her new family, the rest of us bunked down at Verde Camp which is a small compound of updated cabin-type houses with an Old Texas vibe. They were SO cute and right next door to each other. Andre and his wife, Mariana had the bedroom in our house and I climbed the wrought-iron ladder up to my loft-bedroom. This fact alone kept me sober for the entire trip and I learned that my bladder has a capacity that has not been tested in a while. Bianca and her family were next door in the two-bedroom and for a few days I was living my dream (their nightmare)…right next door to my kids. I’d pop open my door and hear my little grand-daughter, Magnolia, yell…”Nona, come over!” We watched Bubba-Guppies, her favorite cartoon show, and once I realized she wasn’t saying “thank you” but “tattoo” I found myself sporting a colorful temporary butterfly on the inner aspect of my left upper arm. I am currently aware of why young women, in particular, should give permanent tattoos a 2nd thought. As I move through the normal motions in a day my little butterfly (less temporary than I’d imagined) seems to be in perpetual motion. Fortunately this is the season for long sleeves.
Thanksgiving morning we woke to a light rain and temperatures that eventually rose into the 70’s. So much for my wool sweater/skirt, tights and boots. Little Maggie Moon’s tummy seemed to be acting up, but it was quickly chalked up to “travel.” She was not interested in much more than a little fruit the entire day…but still we did not quite get it. We loaded up, hoping our little one would nap along the way (she did), and arrived several minutes outside of town to our Thanksgiving destination and …..THE BRAZILIANS!! The welcome was overwhelming and wonderful. The Christmas tree was up, the kitchen already steamy and in full swing, the nervous Turkey chef dragging me over to the oven waiting for words of approval, and delicacies of the foreign variety were awaiting our domestic counterparts to join them….we did not disappoint! Soon our languages, voices, and tasks began to mingle and collaborate. I finally was able to lure the shy little girls in to bracelet making, card games (I have my ways), and showing off hula-hoop skills. Everyone found their special spot around the table and before long we were all as stuffed as our prized turkey.
It wasn’t difficult to say our goodbyes since we’d see each other soon, except for Anya who was clearly torn between her family of birth and her new one. It was a unique feeling on both sides, but we still had a few days to meet up. Little did we know that the small hint Magnolia had given us earlier in the day would be come less subtle as the evening wore on. In the next couple of days it was apparent that an uninvited guest had joined us for Thanksgiving and presented to us in the smallest package. Formally known as viral gastroenteritis, but also called norovirus….but we had a couple other names for it. A few of us escaped completely….I was not among them.
Happily the epidemic was short-lived, except for my poor son-in-law, Mike… it hit him violently. We still managed to meet up with other family members, bundled up (temps plummeted to the 40s) huddled under umbrellas (the heavens opened and unleashed all hell) eating great pizza by the slice outdoors and shuttling across the street to the vintage AirStream trailer for famous Austin “Hey Cupcakes.” Hmmm, wonder if any of this had anything to do with our gastric problems.
It is difficult not to have expectations for events so heavily anticipated. No matter what actually happens memories are made and experiences are recorded in our hearts and minds – most of them so worth the effort of making them happen. As I enter this new phase of life I plan to make the most of all the opportunities I have to connect with family and friends and to experience new places and try things I never have before. If it isn’t something fresh and new I vow to approach each adventure with as few expectations other than to be present and appreciate the moment. I think with that attitude I’ll take away precious impressions that will last much longer than my new tattoo (hopefully, anyway). Thank you family and Austin for a wonderful, memorable Thanksgiving. Tattoo very much!
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